Leaders: How Do You Look at Seniority?


Have you heard this statement before? It is: “I have seniority.”

So what do you mean exactly by “seniority? And why does this matter?


   [seen-yawr-i-tee, -yor-] noun

1. the state of being senior;  priority of birth; superior age.
2. priority, precedence, or status obtained as the result of a person’s length of service, as in a profession, trade,company, or union.

Barring unionized workforces, I just don’t believe this statement has as much meaning as it used to.  I remember, at the time I was coming into the workforce, hearing that term all the time.

It was common to hear phrases like these:

“I have seniority over you.”

 “I have nothing to worry about because I have seniority.”

Just a Number?

My step-daughter just turned 18 (. . . thank you all for the condolences…)  But seriously, I didn’t realize how A single number could be so magical.

18 = I’m an adult? 

Just like the word “seniority,”it can be just a number, or just a word. the number or word really has not power, authority, or gravitas. You don’t really get those things by reaching an age or place in line.

You have to live up to it.

Times are a Changing! 

Do you remember the days of resumes and one-on-one interviews?  Many organizations don’t even bother with resumes anymore and are now relying on interviews and web presence . . . (and BTW, what’s a one-on-one interview?)

Things have changed and many things that we used to know so well are becoming just words.  Just because one has seniority doesn’t necessarily mean he has the most knowledge, the most creativity, or the most comprehension.

It doesn’t mean he has what’s needed to be promoted and take the department or organization to the next level.

Many times, the employees with seniority are not the most productive. In fact, in some organizations, those with tenure may be those saying, “It can’t be done; we tried it ten years ago and it didn’t work.”

These people are not innovative; they’re usually opposed to changes, especially where new technology is concerned.

Seniority – Just a Word

Sure, there are many things that you can do with that word that you couldn’t do as a new employee.

You may have a few more perks like:

  • Job transfer
  • Shift assignment
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Vacation accrual
  • Promotion opportunities

But it’s not a magical “get out of jail card.”

While seniority was valued in the past, for many people today, the longer you have been with a company, the more your job may be in jeopardy.

Technology is changing things faster than ever.

Younger workers can be perceived as more creative and innovative and may even have more relevant educational experiences and training.

On Action and Development

So as a leader, if you haven’t already, now is the time to pause and take a look at your staff.  Start developing them and get them away from the coffee machine.

John C. Maxwell says:

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts.  It is about one life influencing another.”

Today’s leaders need to be up on, and stay up on, the newest trends, behaviors, and procedures.  And start training!  Not only your new staff but your senior staff as well.

If you downsize, merge, restructure, whatever – is it the guy that hangs out at the coffee machine all day, with “seniority” that you want to hold on to?

Or the guy with less time but busts his rear end for you, comes in early, stays late, and has continued to learn.  You ultimately need to know that you can trust them to have a positive impact on the business and to make good decisions.

Good leaders will help shape their employees and afford them the needed training to keep up on the continuous changes in their businesses.

Organizational Health Check-Up

There will come a time when you need to make important employment decisions.

A quality leader will look at all of the information and weigh all the options first.

By all means you don’t get rid of your senior people just because they’ve been there for many years and tip the pay scale.  Does anyone remember the 3400 employees laid off by a company called Circuit City?  That didn’t work out too well.

As long as your senior people are doing a good job and you’re encouraging them, helping them, and motivating them to continuously learn, they’re as precious as gold to you.

They know history.  And in many organizations, especially with high turnover, that’s a commodity.

A survey, conducted by IBM and reported on in the Economist, stated that,

“When the baby-boom generation retires, many organizations will find out too late that a career’s worth of experience has walked out the door, leaving insufficient talent to fill the void.”

Don’t just be a manager.  Be a Leaderinfluential, empowering, inspiring, motivating.  It will make your future decisions much easier.

Have you looked at your training program lately?  Are your senior people still looked after?  Can you honestly say that you support your staff? Please share your thoughts and comments. I would love to hear them!


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Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources:  dohiyimir.typepad.com

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